Explaining Jesus

Palm Sunday

“Hey! Who’s that?” shouts an excited three-year-old as he enters the church for the first time. He points again at the large Christus Rex (Christ the King) statute over the Altar and demands, “Who’s that?”

Some of his preschool classmates answer: “Jesus!”

The questioner shakes his head: “That’s a bad word!”

One of the children, recently baptized in the church as a toddler, counters: “No, it’s not. It’s not a bad word. It’s a good word!”

The newbie studies the statue with curiosity: “Why is Jesus dressed like a princess?”

Why indeed? Jesus is wearing a crown and sporting a beard—to me, he looks like a prince or king. But he’s wearing a rose-colored priestly chasuble over a tunic, and his long chestnut brown hair is smartly coifed. So I can see the reason his confusion, and I take his point: Why not see him as a princess, one of those plucky Disney heroines who saves the day?

It’s time for an impromptu lesson in 1. I’ve learned over the years of offering children’s chapel to our preschoolers to keep it simple when it comes to Jesus: He was born at Christmas and hailed as a newborn king. He opened the eyes of the blind, fed hungry crowds, walked on water, and told Zacchaeus to climb down out of the Sycamore tree. He was welcomed as a king on Palm Sunday, and then some powerful people, who didn’t want him to be king, crucified him on Good Friday. He died and was buried. But on Easter morning the women who came to the tomb found that it was empty. An angel surprised them with the news that Jesus was alive and told them to tell the other disciples that they would all see him again. Jesus appeared to them, they ate with him, and they all saw him rise up into the sky and disappear into a cloud. Jesus is our heavenly king!

Jesus is our king. Scholars say that is the earliest Christian confession of Jesus is, and that’s what I want the children to know about who Jesus is for us today: “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:11).

Our Calico Cat Preschool is situated in an ethnically diverse community of working people. Our staff and the families we serve reflect the experience of immigration. Some children learn English as a second language in our classrooms. Their parents work very hard; usually both parents work outside the home. In this gig economy, in which job security and benefits are rare, their lives are financially precarious, and they live at the margins emotionally and physically. Harsh immigration policies and horrible headlines worry their parents.

Our church has one great purpose: we try to live and love like Jesus, and help others to do the same. My prayer is that the ministry of our school—the care we offer to parents and the nurture and education we provide for their children—may communicate to our families and form in us all a sure sense of belonging to the kingdom of God. We are under the care of Jesus, who is stronger than any earthly power.

Don’t be afraid. Jesus is our king!